With Carlos Beltran and Colby Rasmus off the board, the Atlanta Braves have turned their trade focus elsewhere. The two hottest names popping up today are Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and Josh Willingham of the A's.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted this today about the Braves interest in Quentin:
Source: Braves "hot" for Quentin - and White Sox love ATL's young arms. One holdup [...] the condition of Viciedo's thumb at AAA. Would replace Quentin for White Sox. Hasn't played since Saturday.
The Quentin rumors first surfaced back at the beginning of July when Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe simply speculated that the Braves would be a good fit for Quentin. That beget a flurry of rumors for several days that have been quiet until now. Rosenthal also says that the Braves are looking at Athletics outfielder Josh Willingham:
Sources: Athletics' Willingham on Braves' list of post-Beltran options.
That is a little less definite than the rumors about Quentin. Both of those options would only really fit defensively in left field, which begs the question "who plays center, and where does Prado play when Chipper returns?"
Mark Bowman also mentions the Padres' Ryan Ludwick and the Rays' B.J. Upton as possibilities that the Braves are looking at. Upton is the only player who would be a center field option, while guys like Ludwick and Willingham would be right-handed platoon players with Jason Heyward, as well as right-handed pinch hitters.
If Chipper Jones were not available this decision would be easier, as a true left fielder could be acquired with Martin Prado moving to third base, but Chipper is expected back in the lineup soon. It's possible that the Braves could be looking to acquire two outfield bats. Since Chipper got injured after the July 31st deadline last year, the team may want to protect against another injury, and so a one-year rental player like Ludwick or Willingham would be that protection while also serving as a pinch hitter and platoon player for the corner outfield spots. At the same time the Braves could pursue a guy they consider a major upgrade in center field for this year and next year, B.J. Upton.
Only the acquisition of Upton would likely require one of the big-four pitching prospects in the Braves system, while Willingham or Ludwick could be acquired for a lesser prospect or two. The availability of Quentin could be coming into play with regards to the two outfielder acquisition option. Ludwick and Willingham are both free agents at the end of the year, while Quentin and Upton would not be free agents until after 2012. If the Braves could get Quentin, then perhaps they would not pursue the two outfielder acquisition option.
At this point everything we know is still just based on a rumor, and mostly speculation.